How to create a mini-garden

by Shannon Ables
Portland writer
The Simply Luxurious Life.

Almost as much as I love organizing and building my wardrobe, I love the arrival of spring as it means I get to shop for my yard and garden. And the good news is that it is far less draining on my budget.

Cooking for me is very pleasurable and often therapeutic. And in an effort to try to cook food that is in season for more flavor and better prices, I try to grow what I can in my herb and vegetable garden. And while everything I plant doesn’t always grow as I had hoped, when they do, I can’t help but do a mini happy dance in my kitchen.

Whether you live in a small studio in the city or a sprawling country estate, creating a mini garden that is easy to access while you are in the kitchen creating your culinary works of art is a simple and relatively affordable idea.

During the summer months, I have a small herb box attached to my house just outside the door near my kitchen (images below) which allows me to quickly step outside in my bare feet to pick a few leaves of basil, fresh flat leaf parsley, handful of lettuce or whatever my recipe may call for. I simply love cutting a few leaves of basil and drinking in their fragrance which to me symbolizes summer, good health and scrumptious eating.

Here are a few things you’ll need to know to help you get started:

1. Seek out the sunshine. Most herbs and vegetables need access to full sun at some point during the day. Whether you are placing small pots on your window sill inside your home or putting them outside on your porch, determine how much space you have to work with.

2. Pick out the containers. Perhaps you would like to use a handful of small pots or one large one, or maybe you have a creative planter in mind (a few ideas are below). Have fun picking out the size, color and material, but make sure you choose one that allows the plants’ soil to drain (terra-cotta works wonders, but so do other pots as they already have designated holes in the bottom for just this purpose).

3. Choose your herbs and/or vegetables. Simply knowing that each time I purchase cut basil at the grocery store for at least three dollars for one meal and that I can purchase a basil plant for four dollars that will produce enough basil to last the entire season is motivation for me to grow my own.

Determine which herbs you enjoy with your food, as well as vegetables that you’d like to have on hand throughout the summer, and then seek them out at your local venders. Plants are still available at most farmers’ markets and nurseries, so be sure to have fun perusing for what you’d like.

A glimpse at my herbs and vegetables, as well as a list of what is shown and not shown:

  • sweet basil
  • Italian (Genovese) basil
  • Thai basil
  • dark opal basil (purple)
  • sage
  • rosemary
  • dill
  • lemon thyme
  • thyme
  • oregano
  • chives
  • Italian flat leaf parsley
  • Roma tomatoes (not pictured above as they are in another area of my yard)
  • Heirloom tomatoes (not pictured above as they are in another area of my yard)
  • lettuce

4. Soil and water. If you will be putting them into a bigger pot with other plants, you might have to pick up some potting soil. Just regular potting soil works fine. Then be sure to water it regularly, especially when the temperatures soar. Purchase a fun watering can (I love this one), and indulge your green thumb.

5. Enjoy! Not only will having your own mini garden enhance the flavor of your meals, but the aesthetic of your home becomes even more beautiful and welcoming.

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